The Grab and Go Bag: 27 Essential Items

Every survival site will give you a list of stuff you need in this bag. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. The first issue is how much “bag” can you carry? This and more in The Green Beret Survival Guide. In Special Forces, the only time I had to remove someone from my A-Team, the reason was simple: he could not carry the heavy weight of an operational rucksack while on a deployment. Our rucks averaged 125–150 pounds. And that’s just the ruck. Add in body armor, and load bearing equipment, now known at MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment– I love the ‘light-weight’ part– a joke in the army is: Man portable isn’t) which was bursting with ammunition, grenades, radio, and other stuff. Just because you can lift it off the ground for a second doesn’t mean you can carry it for dozens of kilometers. Often was the time when we needed someone’s help to pull us up off the ground once we put our arms through the straps of our rucks. We were required by SOP to have our gear packed and ready in the team room for immediate deployment. We tested this concept during the Gut Check by alerting teams, then supervising them as they loaded out, making sure they took their rucksacks as they were, not allowing any repacking or adding of gear or supplies. This made everyone take the SOP very, very seriously as they had to live with that ruck for a couple of weeks while on the Gut Check, or on an operation where their lives depended on it. Optimally, you’d want to take everything with you. But you can’t. Sitting in isolation, we’d cut down our rations, removing such unnecessary weight as plastic spoons. When it came down to deciding between a ration and bullets, the decision leaned toward the latter. So there is no one right bag. You have to configure your G&G bag to your situation and your surrounding environment. Prioritize depending on what you envision your survival needs to be. As an aside, I am not a fan of the ‘survival bunker’ mentality. I know there are many people who have fortified their facilities and stocked them full of supplies. That’s great, until someone comes to take it. Yes, I know the first dozen or so will be stopped, but eventually a static position in an extreme survival situation (total collapse of society) is not tenable. It is fine for a short term survival situation where you’re better off staying in place. In fact, for the Lazy Man’s Survival Guide there’s Rule #1: find the closest survivalist and take their stuff. I know it won’t be easy, and most will fail — Anywho. I recommend having several G&G bags. One in your home. One in your car. One at your place of work. And one in your hide site. Not only does this keep one handy, it gives you redundancy in key survival supplies in case of an extreme emergency. Again, like almost everything else, you can buy a pre-packed G&G bag on line. These are generic. For a car, I think a pre-packed bag is a good idea if you’re not going to take the time to do it personally. Throughout the Green Beret Survival Guide, I give you a good idea of equipment that is useful. I prefer to pack my own as much of the gear in the packaged ones is either not particularly useful or the cheapest made in order to keep the overall price down. You get what you pay for. How much is your life worth? As we used to say in the Army: remember, your weapon was made by the lowest bidder. So was that pre-packaged survival pack.

At home, I’ve got two bags ready; a large and a smaller one. Each are self-sustaining for varying amounts of time. In an extreme my wife would take the small and I’d have the large. If we were going to bug out in my Jeep, we’d put both in the back, plus a waterproof container with food, ammo, and more. And, in the Jeep, of course, is a lot of survival gear which I have with me all the time when I drive it. To the right is just one of the waterproof containers in/on my Jeep. Note the nifty book about survival? Inside a zip lock bag? Emergency water filtration system? Hand crank/solar radio-flashlight? When picking items, choose those that can have multiple uses instead of one. I have a hand crank survival radio that also has a built in flashlight and an adapter for charging my cell phone and a solar charger. Three items in one with two non-electric power sources. Do NOT count on either the power grid or even batteries for long term power. Use a bag that is at least water repellent, if not waterproof. If it isn’t waterproof, pack your items in waterproof bags (garbage bags are too flimsy). A key lesson of surviving in nature is to keep things waterproofed. I tend to redundant waterproof key items, especially clothing and sleeping gear. And dry socks. Did I say dry socks? Your environment and likely emergencies are going to be the determining factors in what you put in your G&G bags. In the Green Beret Survival Guide I describe the Special Forces Area Study which you must do in preparation. This will help determine what you pack.

Also, remember there are items that do not go in the bag, but must be carried on your body. I keep a vest for that; there is more than just ammunition on my vest, although that is the priority; there is also key survival items such as a compass, lighters (critical), 550 cord, water purification, and more. Here are items to consider:

Lay out everything you want to put in your various G&G bags. Will it all fit? If not, prioritize what doesn’t go. When you pack the bag, pack it backwards: what is least important goes in first. What you might need right away is last in, or in outside pockets. I like to have the med kit and ammo readily available. Can you carry it? Put it on. Go for a walk. A long walk. In your survival boots. Get the various bags in place: home, car, work, hide site. In the latter three places actually HIDE them. So even if someone stumbles across your hide site, they won’t find the G&G bag. I lightly cover caching in the book, which is actually quite an art form that we spent a long time on in Special Forces. Sign up for my newsletter, over there on the side, to get access to more information and special deals on my books! Buy The Green Beret Survival Guide or some survival guide. NOW. Because you can’t prepare after the fact! Watch out for that–!

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Originally published at on February 2, 2016.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to

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